African migrant walks with suitcase in south Tel Aviv 370 (R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
A Labor Party bill submitted this week said the law must define that status of
all refugees and decide how many refugees Israel can accept in order to deal
with the issue of illegal African migration.
The new legislation is the
culmination of efforts that began last summer, when now-MK Moshe Mizrahi, a
former commander of the Serious and International Crime Unit of the Israel
Police, led a committee in Labor to propose a policy to deal with the influx of
“The Jewish people has experienced persecution and
pogroms, and it is our special duty to lend a hand and help refugees of
genocide,” Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said. “This does not contradict
protecting the sovereignty of the State of Israel and our interests; the
opposite is true. What causes damage is the fact that Israeli governments did
not create a set policy on the topic of refugees and work immigrants and anchor
it in law.”
Mizrahi explained that Israel is a civilized, modern country,
but it lacks a proper immigration policy and avoids adopting the principles of
the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which Israel was one of the first countries to
“Time and again, like now, Israel is harshly criticized for its
behavior toward migrants and refugees, and breaking international law,” Mizrahi
said. “The Interior Ministry’s behavior is scandalous and must be immediately
According to Yacimovich, Israel’s behavior toward African
migrants has increased international criticism, but Labor’s bill will make up
for the government’s carelessness by clearly defining migrant groups and
determining long-term action.
The government has yet to propose a policy
for dealing with migration, with two of the most urgent issues on the matter
being an examination of refugee claims for all asylum seekers to determine their
status, and providing those who remain in Israel with legal work visas in order
to avoid social issues.
Labor’s bill would establish a system to decide
each migrant’s status within a certain amount of time. This way, the government
will be able to take in a limited number of refugees – up to 2,000 per year –
that are recognized under international law, and send those who do not match the
definition of refugee back to their home country.
If more than 2,000
refugees enter Israel, the government will have to work with other countries
that can absorb them.
Labor also recommends that the government decrease
the number of foreign workers it brings in each year and deport those who are in
Israel without a work visa, so that refugees can receive vocational training in
farming and construction instead.
This proposal has been suggested many
times by activists in recent years, but has yet to be implemented.Ben
Hartman contributed to this report.